Rarotonga, Cook Islands – Recently the Pacific Islands Forum Peer Review team met with the culture and tradition group in Rarotonga led by the President of the House of Aririki and Secretary of the Ministry of Culture.
Traditional leaders expressed the need for support to maintain their culture and heritage.
“With depopulation becoming a big issue in the Cook Islands, our cultural values is at risk of dying and the government and our development partners need to acknowledge and accord importance on the culture and traditional sector of the community to maintain our culture and traditional values,” said one leader to the Review Team during consultations.
The group also highlighted the important role that the tradition leaders and the culture sector play in overall development of Pacific Island nations including the booming tourism industry in the Cook Islands.
“Most of what we do is out of aurora (love) and we currently generate our own capital for culture and traditional initiatives on the islands,” said another leader.
“As you know culture is important to any nation and it is critical that culture is included in any national plan,” said Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Mr Sunny Williams.
The Peer Review team was accorded a traditional welcome by traditional leaders and members of the culture and traditional sector consisting of traditional vaka builders, artists, traditional healers, voyagers, performers and representatives from the library, museum, medicine and voyaging society and other representatives from culture and arts society of the Cook Islands.
The group thanked the Peer Review team for including them in their consultations in the Cook Islands.
The Pacific Islands Forum Peer Review team which includes regional development officials has been in the Cook Islands for a week holding consultations with key political leaders, government ministries, development partners, non – governmental organizations, the general public and private sector representatives in the Cook Islands.
The team will also visit the islands of Mangaia and Aitutaki to consult with local communities on the support and assistance provided to them by their local and national governments and development partners.
The Peer Review team will present an Aide Memoire of their findings to the government of the Cook Islands this Friday and a full draft report within four weeks time of leaving the country.
Cook Islands is the 12th country in the region to undertake the Forum Compact peer review process after Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Niue, RMI, Tonga, PNG, Palau, Solomon Islands.